9 Ways To Make Children More Resilient | EWmums.com

9 Ways To Make Children More Resilient

If your child struggles to bounce back from adversity, here are a few ways to help make them mentally tougher

Posted on

10 March 2019

Make Children More Resilient

All Credits: PA

Does your child give up too easily, or fail to recover after even the smallest of setbacks? If so, they need to build resilience – with your help.

Encouraging a child to toughen up mentally may sound a daunting task in itself, but luckily psychologist Dr Justin Coulson is here to give guidance. He has written a new book 9 Ways to a Resilient Child in a bid to help children spring back from difficulties.

He says: “Resilience means we bounce back from challenges and adversity, and that our developmental progress isn’t thwarted by difficult – even traumatic – circumstances.

1. Build Identity

make children more resilient

Children need to have a strong sense of identity, knowing who they are and how they fit into the world.

Coulson says studies show there are practical strategies for helping children work this out: Things like sharing family stories about when mum did something courageous, or maybe when dad made a difference in the community.

Or parents could ask children hypothetical questions such as, ‘What would you do if you were in that situation?’ to help them identify that they’re ‘a helper’ or perhaps someone who is kind.

2. Teach Flexibility

Children need to learn how to be psychologically flexible, as this builds resilience. Being psychologically flexible simply means children aren’t rigid in their thinking, so if something unpleasant happens they know how to ‘roll with it’.

“Unfortunately, a lot of kids get stuck when things get tough,” says Coulson. “There’s fight, there’s flight, and there’s freeze. Each of these responses emphasises a narrow way of looking at a challenge – and these responses are built on emotion.

“Resilient responses are the ones where our kids recognise things are tough and they find a solution. They step back from the intensity of the situation and look for alternative ways of moving forward with a flexible approach.”

3. Encourage Self-Control

4. Avoid ‘Stinking Thinking’

Studies show the way children think about life and struggle can dramatically affect their responses to challenges. This ‘stinking thinking’ leads to kids crumbling in the face of adversity, thinking, ‘This always happens to me. It’s not fair. I’m hopeless.’

Coulson says: “If we can help children reframe their thoughts, they can see adversity as something that makes them stronger rather than something that weakens them.”

5. Develop A Growth Mindset

Coulson says the concept of a ‘growth mindset’ can best be described in the words of Henry Ford, who said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

But a growth mindset is more than just positive self-talk, explains Coulson – it’s recognising that the brain is like a muscle.

“When you work it, your brain gets stronger. Helping children understand growth mindset can foster resilience, even in kids who think they’re dumb. They come to see they just need to exercise their brain more.”

6. Talk About Their Strengths

Research shows resilience is strengthened by focusing on children’s strengths, rather than always pointing out their weaknesses.

“When we focus on strengths, we emphasise what’s right with them instead of what’s wrong,” says Coulson. “And we accelerate their resilience when we find ways to encourage them to use their strengths every day – especially for helping others.”

Coulson says it will be years before the full effects of the “screen tsunami” that has swept society are known.

However, he insists there’s enough evidence to be clear about two things: Too much screen time, or the wrong kind of content, is having some impact on resilience, and time spent in nature is a proven resilience and wellbeing booster.

“It provides food for the soul,” he says of being outdoors. “Encouraging green time and healthy physical activity over screen time is a must for parents who want to raise resilient kids.”

8. Encourage Autonomy

Children feel strong and capable when they make their own choices and are responsible for their lives, but Coulson points out that we can’t have responsible kids if we don’t give them responsibility.

He says parents offering children choice rather than being too controlling is a powerful way to encourage resilience, and adds: “By getting out of their way, they learn to make decisions, experience natural consequences, and experience a sense of capability and mastery.”

9. Make Relationships Right

Coulson says the most vital ingredient in fostering resilience is relationships. This means having a strong support network to pick children up when they’re down, to offer encouragement, and to love them no matter what.

“This appears to be the most surefire way to raise resilience in our kids,” he says. “When life puts our kids in a tight spot and challenges arise – and they always do – we don’t want our kids to moan, ‘Why me?’. Instead, we want them to stand tall, strong, resilient, and calmly say, ‘Try me’.